New arts and cultural centre to boost High Street

A community arts complex for creative, educational, and immersive events to support good mental health and well-being is due to open in Southend-on-Sea High Street.

Jonathan Mather, Lorraine Cox Creative Estuary, Ami Solomons, Kiwi, Cllr Carole Mulroney and Stephen Wojcik.

‘The Ironworks’ is being run by Kiwi Community Events CIC (Kiwi CIC) following a competition to find a business to fill the space with ideas to attract visitors to the High Street and embrace the City’s abundant creative and cultural arts scene.

In partnership with other local organisations and charities, the new centre is going to provide performance and exhibition space as well as commercial space for social enterprise and local creative start-up businesses.

It came about following a successful bid to the Local Growth Fund from the council, which secured funding to acquire number 90 High Street, which is south of the railway bridge, covering the rates and rents for two years.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council and cabinet member for economic recovery and regeneration, said: “The Ironworks is a great addition to the City centre and I’m really pleased that our successful LGF bid could support this project. This new arts and cultural centre will be a big boost for the High Street and will also provide residents with valuable skills to help with personal wellbeing and growth.

“Projects to invest in and recover our High Street are going well, with an increasing number of organisations being drawn to our new City. I look forward to welcoming even more businesses filling our empty units, to recreate the bustling High Street that once was prior to the pandemic.”

Having secured the funding, the council asked local organisations to submit their business proposals on what the space could be used for with Kiwi CIC being awarded   the winning partner. Kiwi Productions – the CICs’ sister business, have previously managed and delivered many high-profile events across Southend-on-Sea, including The Southend Arts Festival, Hares About Town for Havens Hospices, The Southend Christmas Lights Switch On and more recently, the hugely successful light festival - LuminoCity.

Natalie Solomons, The Ironworks CIC director and project manager, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this magnificent building on behalf of our City’s community, an iconic piece of architecture in the heart of the High Street. A community arts complex for the whole community - there will be so much to offer within this building and we would love to hear from you if you want to be a part of it, whether you want to trade, exhibit, hold a workshop, we are open to all suggestions. The Ironworks will be amazing and we can’t wait to get the ball rolling with its development. A huge thanks to the Southend-on-Sea City Council’s regeneration team for creating this opportunity for us all.”

Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism and planning, recently attended the space for a first look, saying: “I was delighted to be invited for a first look at the new space for The Ironworks. It is a wonderful building with lots of history, and I'm glad that it will be put to good use for the benefit of the public and the creative arts in our new city."

The LGF-funded Town Centre Intervention Project has a number of initiatives to reduce the number of empty units on the High Street, improve the public space and to increase both footfall and dwell time in the town. This includes grant funding to improve shop fronts and support empty unit renovations.

If you would like to be a part of this exciting project, email Natalie Solomons at Kiwi at: info@kiwiproductions.co.uk

Published: 18th March 2022

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